Marshall sophomore leads media company division
Maya Sabbaghian felt restless after attending online classes from her home in Irvine.
Sabbaghian, a sophomore majoring in business administration, channeled her boredom into securing an internship, sending LinkedIn direct messages to the Forbes 30 under 30 Class of 2020.
“It wasn’t just about keeping busy,” Sabbaghian said. “It was … doing something that I see a future with and I’m learning something with.”
One of the people that Sabbaghian reached out to was then-22-year-old Jacob Pace, the former CEO and founder of Flighthouse, one of the largest entertainment brands on TikTok.
Flighthouse attracted a lot of media attention at the time for driving the virality of multiple TikTok hits such as “Roxanne” by Arizona Zervas. A subsidiary of Create Music Group, the media company designates records with viral potential, then packages and promotes them with various influencers, such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae.
“Within a day, he got back to me to hop on a call,” Sabbaghian said. “So we started talking, and he offered me an internship on the spot.”
Sabbaghian’s extreme entrepreneurial streak impressed Pace, particularly how Sabbaghian secured her rent to live in Los Angeles by managing jewelry businesses’ social media.
“I needed a way to make money because I didn’t want to ask my parents for that when it wasn’t necessary to move out here,” Sabbaghian said. “So I just started hitting up hundreds of jewelry businesses on Instagram asking them to do their social media, and two of them said yes, and that covered my whole rent.”
At the start of her internship, Pace took Sabbaghian under his wing to mentor her and immediately “threw her in.”
“He took me around everywhere to meet all these people in the industry … it was something I never had exposure to before, or any experience with,” Sabbaghian said. “I guess that just didn’t matter, because, more than anything, he took a chance on my work ethic and that’s something that’s been a theme throughout my experience over the last year.”
Now Sabbaghian is the head of content licensing at Flighthouse, a division she founded herself.
The division generates over 130 million topsnap views per month at $9-$16 average CPMs — dollars per thousand views.
“She came in as an intern and built a whole division that’s driving a big chunk of our revenue in less than a year,” said Ash Stahl, Flighthouse’s current CEO. “She just took it upon herself to… find a way to make herself valuable to the company, and I would trust her with absolutely anything.”
Sabbaghian’s age may be shocking in a corporate environment, but it’s not an anomaly at Flighthouse. In fact, the average age of employees in Sabbaghian’s division is around 20 years old.
“There’s this company ethos of taking a chance on young, passionate, hard working people, and that’s paid off more than anything,” Sabbaghian said.
While Flighthouse Main develops unique short-form content on TikTok, where influencers participate in skits, interviews and game shows, Sabbaghian’s division primarily syndicates content from YouTube creators to Snapchat Discover.
“At some point during the internship, we discovered this business model that allows us to generate passive revenue for creators by repackaging their content from one platform to another,” Sabbaghian said. “So we started with the first one, Psych2Go, and in the first month, they blew up and made a lot of revenue off of four videos.”
Sabbaghian saw the potential in the scalability of the business model and immediately knew she wanted to not only be a part of the project, but lead it.
“I told them … I wanted to own this project, and I wanted to be here and build this division,” Sabbbaghian said. “That was when I was hired full time … and then, the next month after, Psych2Go generated seven times the original revenue, revenue off of four more videos.”
Sabbaghian’s ambition to further her career at Flighthouse, however, was riddled with doubt. She knew she wanted to stay in school, but juggling her schoolwork with a full-time job and making time for her social life seemed extremely daunting.
She reached out to her professor and mentor, professor of entrepreneurship, Michael Napoliello, as she transitioned from her role as a digital content intern to an executive position.
“I remember him distinctly saying, ‘I hate the word ‘balance’ because there is no balance in life. Just get in, get your hands dirty and do it instead of letting fear stop you,’” Sabbaghian said. “He was the one person that I think more than anyone, really unlocked this belief that I could do it.”
Napoliello had been struck by Sabbaghian’s extreme potential from the moment she enrolled in his class; Sabbaghian had convinced him to let her in despite the fact that she would be the only freshman in the room.
“That level of ambition stood out for me, the willingness to take a leap,” Napoliello said. “She said, ‘I know I’m not quite qualified but I’m willing to risk it, if that’s okay with you.’ And my response was, ‘People who are willing to take risks are always inspiring.”
Sabbaghian ultimately decided to take the offer in the end. Now she leads a team of 15 people dig into the analytics of the channels to develop a content strategy based on what’s performing well. They scour YouTube for creators who have the potential to succeed on Snapchat as a secondary platform.
Her clients have never doubted the executive despite her youth, but she recognizes and acknowledges the apprehension others might feel. However, Sabbaghian feels that her age actually makes her a more effective voice.
“We’re all young, we’re all learning, but we’re legitimate and we’re making actual revenue for these creators … making a difference in their lives, and the lives of the people who watch it too,” Sabbaghian said. “Never use your age as an excuse for why you can’t do something awesome.”
Correction: In a previous version of this article, we incorrectly referred to Jacob Pace as the “CEO and founder of Flighthouse.” Pace is the former CEO and founder of Flighthouse. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.